In February 2021, photographs and videos started to circulate on social media that supposedly showed two moons hanging in the sky over Dubai:
While this video is real in the sense that it doesn’t appear to be altered, Dubai did not mysteriously gain an extra moon in February 2021. The “objects” seen in this video are actually digital projections of the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos in celebration of the Hope Probe’s approach to Mars.
The Hope Probe was launched by the United Arab Emirates Space Agency in July 2020, and is expected to enter Mars’ atmosphere on Feb. 9, 2021. Khaled AlShehhi, Executive Director of Production and Digital Communication Sector at the UAE Government Media Office, told the Khaleej Times:
“The Mars Mission is one of the biggest challenges of the country’s history and one of the boldest initiatives of the UAE: Conquer space. So, to create awareness around this important fact, nothing better than bring the two moons of Mars to Earth.”
Gulf News reported that two 100-meter cranes were used to display images of the two Martian moons on a 40-meter screen. An image of this setup can be viewed here. The UAE Government Media Office said that this display was designed to make it appear as if these two moons were hanging in the earth sky.
(Two Martian moons) were projected in the sky using a new technology that has never been seen before in the UAE. Two giant 100-meter cranes and an advanced 40-metre screen have been used to make the moons appear realistically in the sky and visible from long distances.
“The idea was to create a way that allows everyone to see what Hope Probe is capturing 500 million miles away. (It was aimed at driving) awareness and create excitement around Hope Probe’s insertion on the Mars atmosphere, a milestone in UAE history that will happen on February 9.”
Unlike NASA’s Curiosity Rover, the Hope Probe will not land on the Martian surface. Rather, it will orbit Mars in order to get a better picture of the planet’s atmosphere. In addition to providing scientific data, Sarah Al Amiri, chair of the UAE Council of Scientists and deputy project manager for the Emirates Mars Mission, said that they hope that this mission inspires a new generation of space explorers.
When the Hope satellite reaches Mars on Feb. 9, it’ll be the first probe to offer a full picture of the Martian atmosphere, providing a holistic view of how Mars’ climate varies throughout the year. But here on Earth, it may achieve something even more important: providing hope to a younger generation, bringing more women into STEM and promoting collaboration between nations.
Because there’s something else that makes it special: Hope is the first interplanetary mission led by an Arab, Muslim-majority country.
“The intent was not to put a message or declaration to the world,” says Sarah Al Amiri, chair of the UAE Council of Scientists and deputy project manager for the Emirates Mars Mission. “It was, for us, more of an internal reinforcement of what the UAE is about.”